Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Delije - one of a kind

(Before reading this, please note that this blog, its writers, readers and all those involved do not condone any forms of violence that exist within the game)

When speaking about the most fearsome and intimidating stadiums in the world, you can take Wembley, Anfield, Old Trafford, the Nou Camp, the Bernabeu, the San Siro and any other great European stadium and throw them all out the window. The “Marakana” (no, not that one) is the home of the famous Serbian club Red Star Belgrade and it should be considered to be the, if not one of the, most formidable stadiums in the world. Originally called the “Stadion FK Crvena Zvezda”, it wasn't until the refurbishment of the stadium was complete in 1963 that it took on the name of the “Marakana”, which was a fitting tribute paid by the Red Star fans who were in awe at the stadium’s new look. Nowadays, in an era of all-seated, less chanting and more complaining stadiums, it is a shame that such a great stadium – which still has that old school atmosphere and feeling when it is looked at - is often disregarded by the mainstream media as the most intimidating, yet admirable, stadium in the world.

This article though, is not about the stadium. It’s about a group of individuals who reside at the very heart of the stadium on the North Gate. It is about a group of individuals who create an atmosphere unrivalled anywhere in the world; a group of people feared by many supporters around Europe and admired by those in Serbia who support them. They are called the Delije.

The Delije (“heroes” in English) are the group of Red Star Belgrade’s supporters who currently occupy the entire north stand of the stadium during matchdays. They’re what people would refer to as “ultras”. Their name is portrayed across the entire stand as a tribute to their commitment and support, and nothing, even modern-day advertising, can take their name off it. They are the most committed, die-hard, fanatics of any Football club in the world that you’re ever likely to come across. They travel in numbers. Home or Away, whenever Red Star Belgrade are playing, you know that their hostile and unique supporters will follow them. Their flares are always lit up. Their songs are always being sung. Their red and white stripes are always being showcased with pride. The Delije’s presence is always felt.

Divided into several subgroups, the Delije supporters have got names such as Ultra Boys, Brigate, Heroes, KCZ, Ultras, HCZ and of course, the biggest of them all, the Belgrade Boys. Their influence within the club is pivotal. The club functions in accordance with the demands of the Delije. What they want is usually what they get. That is how powerful they are. Their acts and requests are able to have a direct affect on the players. A friend of mine, a devoted Red Star supporter, told me a story which provides evidence of their strength. One of Red Star’s supporters called Uros Misic jostled a flare down the throat of an undercover policeman who was in the stands. Misic was sentenced to 10 years in jail, (whereas other criminals who raped young children were being given as little at 6 months of imprisonment – that was one of their many arguments used in his defense). The Delije used their authority to make the players wear t-shirts before a game asking for the “Freedom of Uros”. Power indeed! This caused Red Star to get fined heavily for being unable to “control their players and supporters”.

Portrayed by many as modern-day hooligans and all that is considered to be “evil” in the Football world; this image given to their fans is especially due to their past links with Arkan (a former Serbian paramilitary leader during the Yugoslav Wars). He was, for a certain period of time in the early 1990s, the leader of the Delije. Using his power and influence amongst Red Star supporters, Arkan made sure the Delije were mobilized into participating with his army in several “acts of violence”. 

The special bond and relationship between Arkan and the Delije was epitomized on the 13th of May 1990 in a match which took place in Zagreb. It remains one of Football’s darkest hours. In a game between Red Star Belgrade and Dimano Zagreb, following Croatia’s first elections in 50 years took place favoring their independence, a mass riot which had nothing to do with Football left many injured and ultimately led to the eventual end of the Yugoslav First league, as well as what many consider to be the moment that started the war of Croatia’s independence. Arkan’s role with the Delije will always be the dark dot engraved in people’s memories when the Delije are spoken about. This is one of the main reasons why they’ve been portrayed unfairly in the media. But if the Delije have proven anything nowadays it’s that fan-power still exists. They've proven that they are the 12th man on the pitch. They can make a difference. 

The atmosphere they create is unique. It is further proof of the power that Football fans could have, if only they knew how to exploit it. Whether it is on a nationalist or governmental level, these fans know that they are being heard and taken seriously. The argument will always remain that they’ve been extremely violent in order to get what they want. But in the Football world today, which is engulfed with billionaires, owners and commercials that suddenly make the important decisions for the clubs we support – Red Star Belgrade have stood firm. The Delijes have not let it happen.

The hostile environment they create not only strikes fear into opponents, but also into their own players. Knowing that if they don’t perform they could face the wrath of the Delije should be enough of a motivation to make them perform well. Knowing also that they’ve got that type of backing if they do perform well, should stimulate the biggest drive possible. These are individuals who have used their support, their voice, their power, their unity, their violence, their past, their club, their love of the game to make sure they get what they want. It’s a far cry from what Football looks like on the terraces at Europe’s bigger clubs. It doesn’t sound pleasant and it may go against all that is supposed to be peaceful in the game, but hell, it is damn respectable.

Here they are…the Delije:


  1. wouldnt wanna be refereeing a game there

  2. Bệnh đau mắt đỏ là bệnh rất dể lây lan , đau mắt đỏ kiêng gì ? Có nhiều món mà bệnh đau mắt đỏ phải kiêng. Bỏng bô xe máy là trường hợp rất hay gặp phải , bị bỏng bô xe máy nên kiêng ăn gì ? Kiêng món tanh , gà ,... chua can thi khong can phau thuat Bấm huyệt cũng là ,một cách chữa bệnh mất ngủ hiệu quả nhất , cách này được nhiều người áp dụng . Mất ngủ trong khi đang mang bầu là hiện tượng rất hay xảy ra , bà bầu mất ngủ có ảnh hưởng đến thai nhi không ? Câu trả lời là có , vì vậy nên điều trịnh càng nhanh càng tốt.

  3. We have to allow ourselves to be loved by the people who really love us, the people who really matter. Too much of the time, we are blinded by our own pursuits of people to love us, people that don't even matter, while all that time we waste and the people who do love us have to stand on the sidewalk and watch us beg in the streets! It's time to put an end to this. It's time for us to let ourselves be loved.